Literary Lion – Thoughts on the Edge. 


Standing at the edge of something is a difficult place to be but it’s a place we regularly function in, some of us better then others.  It’s just like looking over the edge of the whirlpool, waiting to jump in, knowing what’s on the otherside may make you sorry that you missed it. But it may also destroy you or define you, as poet Margeret Avison describes in the poem “The Whirl Pool.” 

Stevan Tyler of Aerosmith sang that living on the edge, “you can’t help yourself from falling” and I think he had a good point when it comes to living in this world, we are always on the edge of choices and decisions. 

Paul Brandt sings in his song Risk, ” I’d rather stand on the edge of a cliff and hang my toes over a bit and jump even if it scared me and I got hurt. I’d rather live my whole life with a sense of abhandon, squeeze every drop out no matter what happens, and not wonder what I had missed – I would rather risk.” I think that says it all, he would like to live without regrets. 

Imagine standing at the Grand Canyon and going out onto that glass look-out point, the one you can see right through at the rapids far below you and the layers of brick red, dirty orange, vanilla, and brown canyon as far as the eye can see. Or imagine waiting at the falls at Niagra and watching the water going over. The edge is a difficult place to be but there is often this sense of freedom and no regrets associated with the word; but not always. 

Think about someone being  mentally and psychologically pushed over the edge due to mental illness or something they can’t handle. This is a vicious place to be for someone experiencing mental trauma such as psychosis, depression, or anxiety. And the majority of these people just need your understanding, your help, and your friendship. 

 I think mentally and psychologically, the edge is a hard line to define in exenuating circumstances, where people become violent.  For instance, no one knows what makes killers of unhappy people on campus, when they go and shoot everyone they can put a bullet into. Is there a point when this could have been stopped? Citizens know that with tighter gun regulations these type of events go down dramatically as do gun related deaths. That’s an edge to me, an edge the US government and citizens have fallen off of and will continue to do so until laws restrict guns. 

As for myself, I face a different kind of edge dealing with a life on the edge of exhaustion. I’m always trying to push myself past my limits, only to be stuck in bed the next day because using all my energy has made me ill. So, when I’m out, I must keep track of that three hour mark, knowing that if I let myself go past that edge I will deeply regret it  for one or two days after. That three hour mark is an edge I balance on as I plan what I am going to be doing each day of the week and how I am going to manage if plans change, as they often do. 

I use to live on different edges — the edge of drinking, that point where you have had a lot to drink but not so much that you will regret it the next day. Or the edge of a relationship. At what point is enough enough. When I played sports there was that edge, at what point do you pull someone off for not playing well and put someone else in? At what point when you are losing does the team collapse and fall apart and start getting mad at each other. When do they start to learn how to get past that drama and play well anyways. 

Edges are despicable places to be, but they definitely define us in a moment, a split second of choice; a mental, emotional,  or psychological decision. Here’s to you as you face that edge and I hope the edge you face is good place to immerse yourself in. May you never be afraid to step off it, thoughtfully, in the right moment.  May you have the courage to help and face others who have wrongly stepped of the edge, and lead them back to stability. 

Thanks toI Smith Words for the prompt edge.

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Writing 101 – Vortex


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Vortex (Definition) Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online

1.something that resembles a whirlpool

2.a. a mass of fluid (as a liquid) with a whirling or circular motion that tends to form a cavity or a vacuum in the center of the circle and to draw toward this cavity or vacuum bodies subject to its action;

b.a region within a body of fluid in which the fluid elements have an angular velocity

plural vortices also vortexes

To Whom It May Concern:

Have you ever looked at life and wondered if it was just some giant vortex waiting to pull us down into its whirling center and suck us dry? Doesn’t it seem to you that at some points in life we have no choice but to be pulled down into the whirlpool and face whatever meets us there.

What I’m trying to say is this: at times we go about life happily and unaware of the bad stuff that is about to effect us. We don’t even stop to think that there is something out there waiting to pull us down from our content reality. We think that we’re not in any danger, we believe that our life is just going to go along in the fantastic or at least normal way that is has gone then, wam! We are in this giant vortex and no matter what we do we can’t seem to wriggle our way our way out of  our problems or a situation we could potentially find growth in.

A Canadian poet, Margaret Avison, once described a vortex as whirlpool. That the whirlpool was a defining moment in our life and different people faced this defining moment in 3 different ways. Here is the poem so you might read it; it’s one of my favorites from high school. It’s called The Swimmer’s Moment.

THE SWIMMER’S MOMENT

Margaret Avison
From:   Winter Sun. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962. pp.36

For everyone
The swimmer’s moment at the whirlpool comes,
But many at that moment will not say
“This is the whirlpool, then.”
By their refusal they are saved
From the black pit, and also from contesting
The deadly rapids, and emerging in
The mysterious, and more ample, further waters.
And so their bland-blank faces turn and turn
Pale and forever on the rim of suction
They will not recognize.
Of those who dare the knowledge
Many are whirled into the ominous centre
That, gaping vertical, seals up
For them an eternal boon of privacy,
So that we turn away from their defeat
With a despair, not for their deaths, but for
Ourselves, who cannot penetrate their secret
Nor even guess at the anonymous breadth
Where one or two have won:
(The silver reaches of the estuary).

I think that I love this poem because it demonstrates how we — the swimmer — face the difficult or defining moments in our life. Some people see that moment (the whirlpool) and do not realize it is a defining moment in their life. They are saved from “the black pit and also from contesting” because they never try to see the grand and great wonders that could be on the other side of the vortex (the whirlpool). They never get to see ” [t]he mysterious, and ample, further waters.” In fact, Avison writes that those who do not dare the whirlpool miss their purpose, a greater knowledge because they are too afraid to swim into the vortexes in their life.

Those who never risk also do not recognize the “eternal boon of privacy” of those “whirled (in the vortex’s) ominous center” and who  are defeated by the whirlpool. Not all of us make it past the defining moments in our lives. Some of us are destroyed by them but I think Avison believes it is still worth it to take risks and enter the whirlpool. Even those who are gone, who we ” . .  . despair, not for the deaths, but for / [o]urselves who cannot penetrate their secret,” even in risking themselves those who are defeated by the whirlpool have gained a knowledge that those of us who have never swam into the whirlpool cannot guess at.

Nor can those who have not “penetrated” the whirlpool, swam into the vortex, understand “[w]here one or two have won /( [t]he silver reaches of the estuary). ” Some people set out to meet their defining moment at the whirlpools edge and they swim through the vortex of the whirlpool and come out with a special knowledge, with a special purpose, having gained wonderful and subliminal riches by taking their swimmer’s moment at the whirlpools edge.

I think in this poem Avison encourages us to take risks in our lives. So when it seems like everything is going fine and you become sucked into a vortex, something new and exciting, somewhere or something where we are at our own peril please take up  that challenge. You will never see  ” . . . the silver reaches of the estuary.” what magnificent adventures await you in life if you don’t set out to find your purpose. You will never gain knowledge and gain a deeper understanding of yourself, if you cannot meet the challenges of the “[t]he [s]wimmer’s [m]oment” in your lives. If you cannot make it through the bad times, the times that make you grow, and understand yourself as a person, you will be missing out. Your loss will be greater than those people who risk bad times in their lives and never make it through them.

Sincerely,

Amanda

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